The Pesky Flea
The ordinary cat flea is the leading cause of skin problems in the dog. All dogs are effected except those living at higher elevations. Fleas do not live above 5000 feet. They live year round indoors.
Fleas survive by feeding on blood. In many dogs the bites cause only a mild itch, but a heavy infestation can cause severe anemia and even death. Fleas are also a intermediate host of the dogs tapeworm. Some dogs experience a marked hypersensitivity reaction to the saliva of the flea.
SIGNS: Finding fleas on the dog or by seeing salt and pepper like, black and white grains about the size of sand grains in the coat. These particles are flea feces and flea eggs. Fecal material is made up of digested blood. When brushed onto a wet paper towel it turns a reddish brown. Look for fleas on your dogs back and around the tail and hindquarters. They are sometimes found on the groin. Itching is most severe in theses areas.
The adult flea is a small dark brown insect that can be seen with the naked eye. Fleas have powerful back legs and can jump great distances. Fleas move very rapidly and are difficult to catch, while ticks and lice move slowly and are easier to pick off.
LIFE CYCLE: Fleas need a warm humid environment in order to flourish and reproduce. The higher the temperature and humidity, the more efficient they become. Fleas mate on the skin of the dog. The female can lay 2000 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs fall off and incubate beneath furniture and in carpets, cracks and bedding. In a few days the eggs hatch into larvae, which feed on local debris. The larvae spin a cocoon and go into a pupal stage. Adult fleas can appear then in 2 to 3 weeks. Or if temp. and humidity is not ideal they can remain in the pupal stage for several months. After they hatch, fleas search for a host. If one isn't found right away, they can live for 4-12 months without eating.
At any time, only about 1% of the flea population is made up of adult fleas, 99% remain in the invisible egg, larval and pupal stages. Therefore to control fleas on your dog, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DESTROY THE LARGE RESERVOIR OF FLEAS ON THE PREMISES. Precede with both steps at the same time.
STEP ONE: CONTROL OF FLEAS ON THE DOG
(a) Mild fleas shampoos remove fleas but their effect is short lasting
(b) Sprays are used most often. Water based sprays are less expensive, but don't penetrate the coat as well as alcohol based sprays. In general, sprays work best on dogs with short coats. If using shampoos, powders, and sprays they should be used once or twice a week.
(c) Insecticide dips are the most effective means of ridding your dog of fleas. Even dips should be utilized until your dog is rid of fleas. Before using any insecticide preparation be sure to read the warning label on the container to prevent toxic reactions.
(d) Systemic agents: Your veterinarian can supply you with either oral or external drugs that enter the blood stream and poison the flea when it takes the blood meal. Some drugs kill the adult fleas immediately, while some drugs may not kill the adult, instead it makes the eggs laid by the female unhatchable.
(e) FLEA COLLARS AND MEDALLIONS: These aid in fleas control but cannot be relied on to irradicate all fleas. They must be changed every 2 months or when recommended by the manufacturer. Occasionally a dog is found to be sensitive to the chemicals in a flea collar and can develop an allergy. FOLLOW PACKAGE DIRECTIONS CLOSELY:
STEP TWO: Control of fleas on the premises.
With a heavy flea infestation you may want to use the services of a professional exterminator. THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN THE INDOOR CONTROL OF FLEAS INVOLVES A THROUGH CLEANING OF THE HOUSEHOLD.
Sprays and foggers can also be highly effective to prevent maturation of larvae and pupae into adult fleas.
For outdoor control removing debris by mowing, raking, and discarding of bedding and blankets helps. And dusting with insecticide powder will help to control the pre-adult flea stages.